The graceful presentation, detached humor and Buddhist milieu of “Pool” allow life lessons to just float into view. Centered around a mother and daughter uneasily reunited in a Thai resort, this languorous Japanese comedy nails, without apparent effort, the Zen-flavored humor that many indie ironists strive for but fail to achieve. Locally, the film garnered minimal arthouse B.O. on September release, but its similarity to the pics of Naoko Ogigami will push it along the same currents that brought “Glasses” and “Kamome Diner” into festival view.
Action is set in a customer-less resort in Chiang Mai, run by middle-aged Kyoko (Satomi Kobayashi). Also living either at the resort or nearby are helping hand Ichio (Ryo Kase), muse-like animal lover Kikuko (Masako Motai) and young Thai orphan Bie (Sittichai Kongpila). Arriving at the Eden-like environment is Kyoko’s grown daughter, Sayo (Kana), who’s just graduated in Tokyo and carries resentments as heavy as her suitcase.
Episodic pic edges toward the moment when Sayo voices the feelings of abandonment she’s carried since high school, when Kyoko left her in her grandma’s care and moved to Thailand. Pic’s glacial pace until this point will charm or bore auds, according to tastes, but there’s a certainty to the film’s tone that is hard to refute.
Mika Omori’s helming is relaxed but perfectly framed. The stylistic resemblance to Ogigami’s films is accentuated by the casting of both Kobayashi and iconic character actress Motai, but also owes much to the josei (women’s manga) source material by Erica Sakurazawa.
Deadpan thesping a la Hal Hartley carries the day, though Kobayashi’s perf as the mother recalls the considered intelligence of Susan Sarandon. Quality cinematography by Mineto Tani captures the allure of Northern Thailand without being overwhelmed by its natural beauty. Technical package is low-key but professional.